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El Camino Real

4.6 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Audio CD, June 3, 2014
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Editorial Reviews

Indie rock stalwarts Camper Van Beethoven are back with El Camino Real, the companion album and follow up to their highly lauded La Costa Perdida. Whereas La Costa reflected the northern California back to the country side of the band with lush and trippy references to Jack Keruac, Richard Brautigan, The Beach Boys and Big Sur , the songs on El Camino Real are firmly rooted in a grittier earth one that lies beneath the southern half of the state and stretches all the way down to Baja California. Produced by the band and recorded in various studios and living rooms, El Camino Real s harder sonic edges capture the sounds of an entirely different road trip from Bakersfield through the Inland Empire and beyond the border to Mexico. The lineup remains Victor Krummenacher, Greg Lisher, David Lowery, Jonathan Segel and Michael Urbano.

Music historians will note that despite the band s extended residency in Santa Cruz and parts north, Camper Van Beethoven actually formed in Redlands, California a semi-urban, multi-cultural polyglot landscape populated by a host of characters brought to life by the angular notes and dry observations of El Camino Real. Similarly, the songs Camp Pendleton, Dockweiler Beach, I Live in LA and Sugartown evoke a particular view of life in said regions.

Says David Lowery: The best way to look at the new album is to draw a contrast between the two. On La Costa Perdida the ocean is calm, benevolent and feminine; on El Camino Real the sea is filled with darkness, secrets and chemicals.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 3, 2014)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Savoy
  • ASIN: B00JEK4AR6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,955 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Pen Name? VINE VOICE on June 4, 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
"Soviet spy swims upstream disguised as trout."
As you can tell from the oath, I'm a long-time devotee to all things Camper Van Beethoven, so yes I'm going to say that I love this album. But I do and my immediate reaction is that this is the most enjoyable collection CVB have put out since Key Lime Pie. La Costa Perdida (2013) has some tremendous songs, both darker songs and softer songs than much of the fare here, but on the whole El Camino Real sounds even better. I highly recommend it. It's not a return in any direct sense to anything past for CVB, but it does have a lot of energy which might appeal to those who like their CVB played faster.
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If back in 1990, when I was mourning the then-recent breakup of CVB, someone had told me that we would get two great Camper albums in 2013 and 2014, I would not have dared to believe them. But, here we are, and less than a year and a half after the wonderful La Costa Perdida, we get another CVB album. Much of this material comes from the same songwriting session as that album, which I admit made me slightly nervous before actually hearing this album--albums made of leftovers often end up being less-than-stellar. But, here's the thing: this material wasn't leftover. CVB noticed a lyrical and musical thread running through some of the stuff they were working on, and that became the mellow, sublime and Northern California-oriented La Costa Perdida. The remaining material, which tended to be harder-rocking and denser, ended up taking on a Southern California-oriented lyrical theme, and wound up on this album.

As a result, one of the really cool things about this album is that it's totally different from its predecessor--absolutely not LCP pt. II. The first 5 songs, which have already become one of my favorite sequence of songs ever on a CVB record, comprise the rawest, hardest-rocking stuff the band has ever done. The guitars are loud, the violin is present on every song but mixed a bit lower, and the bass is loud and growling--an eye-opening performance from bassist Victor Krummenacher. The CVB musical exoticism is a bit toned-down here, but there is still plenty of it--my favorite example being the weird guitar line in "The Ultimate Solution" that is based on the Japanese train announcement melody that opens the track. If I had to put a label on the first half of the record, it would be 'prog-punk'--an odd combination, but it works brilliantly here.
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"El Camino Real" starts off magnificently--great hooks in the first two songs "The Ultimate Solution" and "It Was Like That When We Got Here," followed by the inventive "Classy Dames and Able Gents" and the lovely "Camp Pendleton." While there's not a bad song on this album, the middle has a slight drop-off; Dockweiler Beach at times features David Lowery's delivery in a sort of monotone, but otherwise has some good movement, and "Out Like a Lion" is a somewhat interesting change of pace, a little slower, almost plodding, but has some good moments. "Sugar Town" is a gentle, pretty song, with some nice touches. "I Live in L.A.," the instrumental "Goldbase," the country-like "Darken Your Door," and the lovely Grasshopper are all solid, enjoyable tunes.

Only one minor complaint: Too bad on the CD version they left out "City of Industry," which I think is pretty good and fits in with the rest of the album.

Amazing band, taking their music on this album in a totally different direction from their albums long past and even from their more recent albums. In this one, the violin is still featured, but not as prominent as on other albums--all great music anyway!
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Format: Audio CD
After 30 years, between CVB, Cracker, and other assorted projects, I think it's safe to say David Lowery is on the short list for the Most Underappreciated Songwriter in rock.
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Great follow up to Perdida. David's vocals have never sounded better and his songwriting is right on par with all his Camper and Cracker songs from the past. Really digging this record, and if you're a Camper fan, you will absolutely want to have this.
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I fell in love with "Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart" in '87. Then "Kerosene Hat" in '93. Now they've gotten older and married. David Lowery, like Charles Thompson and a few others, is one of the most prolific and distinctive artists out there. The band is gellin' and they are liking it- and it shows. Please don't stop again.
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Music journalist Chuck Klosterman once wrote an article about bands that are not overrated or underrated. These bands simply are; they attract the right number of fans, have just the right amount of critical praise, and exist in their own bubble. In my eyes. Camper Van Beethoven are the perfect example of this kind of band. I have always enjoyed their albums immensely, and am happy when a song from one springs up on iTunes or Pandora, yet they are not a whose albums I regularly play. I see them when they are near me, and always leave satisfied, but would never travel long distances to see them.

That being said, the bands previous two albums (New Roman Times in 2004 and La Costa Perdida in 2013) were almost flawless. They were certainly miles better than most older bands who get back together and release an album. New Roman Times was an album that was musically varied and pleasing, and like 2004's American Idiot, managed to have a political subtext/concept that was just vague enough that it was not alienating. La Costa Perdida was what I'd consider more "classic" Camper Van Beethoven, and showed that even 30 years after starting, these guys are no joke.

Therefore, I was fairly excited when I saw we had a new album in just a year. According to what I read, La Costa Perdida and this new album would be companion pieces. While last year's album focused on Northern California, El Camino Real is its counterpart about Southern California. Much like, say, Use Your Illusion I and II, these albums would combine to form a bigger whole. I can definitely say that while, musically, the album is pleasing enough, but it lacks the ability to be consistently replayed that the previous two albums had.

There are highlights for sure.
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